The magic of Harry Potter returns to Grand Rapids Pops with 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,' Friday and Saturday

Last season, when the Grand Rapids Pops brought the Harry Potter Film Concert series to town, the Grand Rapids Symphony sold out three performances of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with the musical score played live by the Grand Rapids Symphony.

When Harry Potter battled talking spiders and giant snakes, dealt with a charming but inept Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, and finally faced the memory of Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, an audience filled DeVos Performance Hall.

Now, Pottermania is back for more.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the third film in the series, comes to the Grand Rapids Symphony stage for three performances on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 9-10.

Tickets, starting at $18, are available, but they’re going fast for three shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday. Call (616) 454-9451 or go online to GRSymphony.org

In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry, Ron and Hermione, now teenagers, return for their third year at Hogwarts, where they are forced to face escaped prisoner, Sirius Black, who seems to pose a great threat to Harry.

Harry and his friends spend their third year learning how to handle a half-horse, half-eagle creature known as a Hippogriff, repel shape-shifting Boggarts, and master the art of Divination. They also visit the wizarding village of Hogsmeade and the Shrieking Shack, considered the most haunted dwelling in Britain.

In addition to these new experiences, Harry faces a werewolf and must overcome the threats of the soul-sucking Dementors. With his best friends, Harry tackles advanced magic, crosses the barriers of time and alters the course of events for those around him.

This weekend, the lobby of DeVos Performance Hall will be decorated in trappings of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Guests can take photos with a Sorting Hat or sample specialty drinks inspired by the world of magic in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic versions.

Created by author J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter is a cultural phenomenon unlike any ever seen before. Rowling’s seven books have sold more than 400 million copies and counting, making Rowling the world’s only billionaire author.

The Harry Potter Film Concert Series, created by CineConcert in conjunction with Warner Bros. presents the original film in high-definition on a 40-foot screen with a full-scale symphony orchestra performing musical score by Williams, who also created film scores for “Star Wars,” “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” as well as for many of the films to follow in those franchises. He also scored “Saving Private Ryan,” “Jaws,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” and “Schindler’s List” among a galaxy of blockbuster films.

“I think that John Williams is one of the great geniuses of all music, not just film,” Freer said in an interview on Pottermore.com last year.

Grand Rapids Symphony was among the first orchestras in the world to present Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone after the series debuted in June 2016.

It since has become a worldwide phenomenon, scheduled to include hundreds of performances across more than 35 countries around the world through 2018.

Still, it’s hard to imagine audiences anywhere could be as excited to relive the tale of the boy who lived as they were for the Grand Rapids Pops debut in January 2017 that sold out three performances totaling more than 7,000 people, many dressed in wizard’s robes or in the house colors of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin.

Odds are everyone who attended has seen the movie before, possibly many times over. The shared experience makes it special. So does the live music, which generates excitement because it’s fresh and new. It’s familiar but also a little bit different.

Even as you get caught up in the experience of watching a lively game of Quidditch or the deadly drama of a game of Wizard’s Chess, you’re aware nonetheless that what you’re hearing is coming at you live. The air crackles with excitement.

What’s more, the truly surround sound of a 90-piece orchestra in a concert hall reveals aspects of the music not as apparent in the original movie soundtrack. The first time the Grand Rapids Symphony performed Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s, nearly everyone stayed put for more than five minutes of end credits to listen to the Grand Rapids Symphony play. When was the last time you saw that in a movie theater?

Posted by Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk at 9:00 AM

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